Summertime is here, and many Americans are going out on boats or casting off the side of piers to nab a bigger and better catch than last year. But while seasonal anglers may prefer the warmer months, others won’t be stopped by winter weather or freezing lakes. This Friday, catch the premiere of the all-new National Geographic Channel series “Ice Holes,” which follows a group of ice fishermen as they seek to beat each other in winter fishing derbies and unofficial competitions.
Here are a few essential things you need to know about ice fishing to get you ready for Friday’s episode:
1. Summer fishing gear probably won’t cut it.
Although there are several forms of ice fishing popular in the US, one of the most common methods is called “jigging.” Jigging refers to the type of lure on the fishing pole, used year-round by anglers globally. Ice anglers often use specialized equipment to enhance their catch. Used by some ice fisherman, a “tip up” is a type of free-standing fishing rod. When a fish takes the bait, its pull on the line raises a small flag, alerting the ice fisherman to a bite. Many ice anglers set up multiple tip ups, reeling in more fish from different locations on the ice.
2. Ice anglers have homes on the ice.
Well, kind of. Fishermen developed special shelters to help cope with the physical demands that ice fishing exerts on anglers, the hours of waiting in punishingly frigid temperatures and the possibility of hours or days away from food and shelter, fittingly called “ice houses.” Occasionally referred to as “bob houses” or “ice shanties,” the small ice houses are usually made of wood or plastic that can be dragged out onto the ice. Many are the angler’s construction, built or retrofitted for particular specifications and needs. Bob houses are oftentimes outfitted with gear for fishing such as depth finders, holes inside for fishing through the ice (without leaving the shelter), but many are homes on the ice, with generators, kitchenettes, beds and even satellite TV. People also tend to get, well, creative with their houses.
3. Ice fishing is very popular.
It may not be as glamorous as big-game, deep-sea fishing or as relaxing as lakeside spring fishing, ice angling is still wildly popular for cold-weather states and countries across North America, Europe, and Asia. Winter fish make up nearly 25 percent of all fish caught during the year in states like Wisconsin. Every year, 10,000 anglers trek out onto Minnesota’s Gull Lake ice for the world’s largest ice fishing contest, where prizes totaling $150,000 are offered up for grabs.
4. These ain’t your grandpa’s ice fishermen.
Like any other sport, ice fishing is getting increasingly advanced technologically. But the fishermen aren’t just using better equipment when the fish decides to bite – they’re using it to find fish themselves. One of these tools is called a “flasher.” A sonar device which helps ice fisherman identify spots where fish are plentiful, the flasher also allows fishermen to check the depth of water and the content of the bottom. For example, rainbow fish like sandy-bottom areas, so a fisherman could use the flasher to find these sandy places to bait the trout.
5. Ice fishing can be fairly safe – bearing in mind the ice.
While thousands of Americans do it successfully each year, ice fishing can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ice also doesn’t freeze uniformly, and thick, walkable patches can border flimsy, thin ice. Even a foot of older ice can be weaker than four inches of new ice, and underwater currents such as moving schools of fish can push warm water to the surface. Luckily, in the US many authorities at national parks, resorts and other fishing enterprises often check the ice, and can direct anglers to the safest spots for fishing. But even with the proper precautions, anomalies can occur: in March 2013, Latvian ice anglers were stranded for several hours when their sheet of ice separated from the mainland ice and drifted 2.5 miles into the Gulf of Riga.
Ice Holes dives into the frigid world of competitive ice fishing, following a tight-knit group of colorful fishermen as they compete against Mother Nature and each other every weekend. These ice fishing fanatics have waited nine months for temperatures to drop low enough to freeze the lakes so they can walk on water and drop in their lines. With personal bets for bragging rights and derby prizes sometimes reaching upwards of $150,000, these weekend warriors are willing to do whatever it takes to best their fishing buddies, catch the big one and win the money.
Don’t miss the series premiere of Ice Holes tonight at 10P.